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Counteroffers: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

If "resignation" is the word that strikes fear into all employers, then "counteroffer" is the one that strikes fear into an employee's heart. "What should I do? They've matched my offer?"

It's Friday afternoon. You walk into your boss' office and ask the question that has sent scared many a managers -"Do you have a minute," you ask. At that moment, he knows you're resigning and if he/she wants you, they will have to fight to keep you.

"Why? We love you. Please stay! Don't go! What do we have to do to keep you?"

Recently, two people who accepted an offer from a client of mine called me to tell me that they accepted a counteroffer to remain with their current firm. The one who had been with his current firm for twelve years seemed to make a decision that made sense; the other, however, had pleaded to get a fulltime job and leave consulting. His assignment was ending and he said he wanted the stability of a fulltime job. Earning $45 per hour without benefits, he accepted a small increase in his hourly rate, rather than a fulltime salary of $93000 plus bonus and great benefits from an employer that he kept begging me to get him to see for a job that he said he loved. Why? He told me, "They need me. (as though my client didn't.; as though the loss of revenue for his consulting firm and the difficulty they would have replacing him quickly at the client didn't bother them a wee bit). "

Between the moment you quit and your departure date, your employer may try to persuade you to stay. Your mentor in the firm calls to talk with you. Your colleagues ask you to lunch and want to know why you're going, where and for how much. Your boss' boss asks to meet you. You are now the most important person at your company. You're asked, "What will it take to keep you?" And this goes on for two weeks.

The pressure to accept a counteroffer can be enormous. The monetary offer can be tempting to stay. The promises to rectify everything that ticks you can be enormous. Yet, let's look at what is going on from an employer's perspective.

Your resignation is coming at an untimely moment; they are not prepared to replace you with someone who can step up and do your job. The cost of replacing you in dollars and effort (how many resumes will need to be read and people interviewed before they hire someone who they will need to train-AND they may have to pay a higher salary than what you were earning plus a fee to the search firm for a person who doesn't know what you know. Can you see it's not about you, personally) is large.

At the time you decide to change jobs, write down the reasons why you want to leave-I'm bored. I want to make more money. My boss is a micromanager. I want to learn something new. I want to work closer to home-write down the reasons and put them in a place where you can find them at the time you give notice.

Then, before giving notice, find the list and review it. Do not be seduced by the emotional response you may receive. Remember, the money they offer may only be your next raise pushed up a few months. Listen carefully to the promises that are made and remember that nothing is being put into writing; it is just the desperate effort to keep someone who was taken for granted for so long who they are now forced to remember they have underpaid, treated poorly and need to accomplish their objectives.

Few counteroffers should be considered, let alone accepted. I fully expect to see the consultant's resume online again in a few months because the core issues that caused him to look for a job were not resolved.

Jeff Altman has successfully assisted many corporations identify management leaders and staff in technology, accounting, finance, sales, marketing and other disciplines since 1971. He is also co-founder of Your Next Job, a networking group focused on assisting technology professionals with their job search, a certified leader of the ManKind Project, a not for profit organization that assists men with life issues, and a practicing psychotherapist. For additional job hunting or hiring tips, go to If you would like Jeff and his firm to assist you with hiring staff, or if you would like help with a strategic job change, send an email to him at (If you're looking for a new position, include your resume).

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